Archive for June, 2018

Jogger detained for two weeks for accidentally crossing the US Canadian border

Sunday, June 24th, 2018 | Religion & Politics

A jogger was detained for two weeks for accidentally crossing US Canadian border while out for a run. Read this short description and see if you can answer this simple quiz question.

As reported by The Guardian (and The Telegraph), a teenager named Cedella Roman accidentally crossed the border into the US while on a trip to Canada. There were no border markings.

Two border security officials arrested her. They then transported her to a detention facility 200km away from the border. She was stripped of all her possessions and subjected to an invasive search.

When her mother produced her passport and travel documents, proving she was a French citizen, the US authorities refused to release her and kept her locked up for a further two weeks while they spoke to the Canadian authorities.

Now, here’s the quiz question: what colour was the teenage girl’s skin?

World Triathlon Leeds elite races

Saturday, June 23rd, 2018 | Sport

Long after us age groupers had packed up and gone home, they gave the elite racers a chance to race the same course at World Triathlon Leeds.

It’s a very spectator friendly course in Leeds because they make them do seven loops of the course on the bikes and then four loops of the same course on the run. So, if you can get a good spot, you can see everyone come past eleven times.

Many people opted to view from The Headrow where they could enjoy the sunshine while watching the race. We’re from Yorkshire and Finland, and we have a Yorkshire-Finn baby, so we chose Greek Street, which was firmly in the shade for the entire day.

The barriers they put up are brilliant. I wish they were there all of the time. We could let Venla run around as much as she wanted without fear that she would run out into the middle of the road and get knocked over by a car (or in this case a bike, or a runner).

It was awesome to see Vicky Holland and Georgia Taylor-Brown take a one-two for Team GB. Not quite as perfect as if Jessica Learmonth had won it, given she is the local girl, but still a superb result.

In the men’s race, both Tom Bishop and Marc Austin ran awesome races. Bishop came home in 6th, which I think is his best ever result in ITU.

Unfortunately, Johnnie Brownlee had to pull out with stomach issues. In fact, a lot of athletes who had swum in the River Trent in Nottingham on Thursday had the same thing. It struck a chord with me because I assumed I had food poisoning last month. But it was only a day or two after I had done Wetherby Triathlon in the River Aire.

World Triathlon Leeds

Friday, June 22nd, 2018 | Sport

Back in November last year I was wondering whether multisport might be for me. So, I took part in the inaugural GO TRI Temple Newsam duathlon and decided it was fun enough to register for the World Triathlon Series event that was taking place in Leeds next summer.

Since then, I’ve been busy. I’ve done a bunch of GO TRI events, Skipton, Evolve and Wetherby triathlon, so I had already hit my goal of completing an Olympic distance triathlon. But it was gratifying to reach the race I had targetted for almost a year.

With it being an ITU World Series event, it was big. There was 2,000 of us doing the standard distance alone, plus many more people doing the sprint distance and GO TRI events that ran the day before. So big, in fact, that we had to go check out bikes into transition the day before the race.

You also had the chance to do a familiarisation swim on Saturday while checking your bike in. This was fairly relaxed: there were no rules, you could swim wherever you liked. I did two laps of the 750m course.

On the day itself there was mist on the lake, so they cut the men’s age group swim to a single lap of 750 metres. This was a little disappointing as I was ready for the full thing. But did mean that I only got caught by one of the waves setting off after me, which were spaced five minutes apart. So, at least I didn’t have a bunch of people swimming over me. The mist cleared up soon after and the women, who set off an hour later, got to do the full distance.

Tragedy struck at transition one, though I didn’t know it at the time. My timing chip bracelet fell off my ankle, so I don’t have an official time after crossing the swim exit map.

The bike went well. I managed to maintain an average speed of 26.5 kph. This is slightly slower than the 27 kph I averaged at Wetherby, but I am more than happy with that because Wetherby was flat. In contrast, I thought the drag up Stonegate Road would slow me down a lot.

Nobody was laughing at my low-geared cross bike as we hit the 8% section. Nobody laughed at any point; everyone was very friendly. Even the officials in transition were firm but fair when someone unracked their bike without their helmet on. No DQ, but he had to take his bike back, re-rack it, put his helmet on and start again.

I saw two or three mountain bikes on the course, so I wasn’t the only person there without a £5,000 tri bike.

I felt pretty crab when starting the run and I was glad that I had an additional gel flask to take with me. More aid stations on the run would have been nicer. The city centre run was cool: not huge crowds, but enough people cheering that it gave you a bit of a boost. Including Julie & Tim.

Thanks to the shortened swim, I made it home in:

2:43:00

This was comparable to Wetherby. 20 minutes faster, but then I saved 20 minutes on the shorter swim. The bike was also 4km shorter, but it was hillier and there was about a kilometre of running inside transition that added quite a lot of time.

More importantly, I finished more than seven hours before the so-called “winner” of the men’s race, Richard Murray. Sure, the elite race had a later start time, but in my defence, I did ask if I could switch to the elite race so that I wouldn’t have to get up so early.

Orange Is the New Black

Thursday, June 14th, 2018 | Distractions

Occasionally, the number and quality of recommendations for a TV show reach a threshold and I temporarily expand my TV watching to include something other than shows about people baking in tents. Orange Is the New Black recently achieved this.

It has Captain Janeway in for a start. This wasn’t quite true. It has the actor, Kate Mulgrew. So, the character Captain Janeway isn’t in it which was a little disappointing. Luckily, Mulgrew is a wonderful actor outside of Star Trek, too, so it still worked.

If you’re not familiar with the show, it tells the story of a well-off white woman who gets busted for a ten-year-old drug offence and gets sentenced to 15 months in a minimum security prison. Like anyone who finds themselves in the slammer, she is out of her depth.

It has won critical acclaim for dealing with many of the issues of the prison system including budget cuts, corruption, privatisation and inmate abuse. The characters look real. This isn’t a bunch of women walking around a prison with perfect makeup. My guess is that the “no makeup” look is a form of makeup behind the scenes, but it is done very effectively.

I’ve found the later episodes a little less gripping, probably because of my own extensive white privilege. At first, you’re following Piper as she plays out the “rich white girl in an alien world” struggle, learning to deal with her situation and trying to hold her relationship together.

As the show goes on, the focus moves to other characters. But I can’t identify with growing up in a house where drug use is normal, or in foster care, or with gang violence. It’s elucidating as to how many prisoners are victims of circumstance and upbringing but then, as a leftie, I already believed that.

It will be interesting to see where they take the show next. It returns with a new series later this month.

Announcing Running For Beginners

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018 | News

I’m pleased to announce the launch of my new online course, Running For Beginners. It’s a complete introduction to running for those who want to get into it for the first time or are coming back to it after a break.

Topics covered include:

  • Where to run
  • What to wear
  • Staying safe
  • Warming up and cooling down
  • Motivation
  • Dealing with different weather conditions

And much more. So far, it is proving rather popular:

And best of all, it’s free. Click here to check it out.

Ken Hom’s Complete Chinese Cookbook

Sunday, June 10th, 2018 | Books, Food

We’ve really enjoyed Ken Hom’s cookbook. We’ve been working our way through the 60-odd recipes we thought looked tasty over the past three or fours months and can now conclusively say that it is a winner.

All of the recipes have been easy to follow. A lot of them start the same way: by chopping up some meat and marinating it in a mixture of sesame oil, rice wine, soy sauce and corn flour. Then typically stir-fried with a variety of other ingredients.

If you’re looking for authentic Chinese food, this isn’t the book for you. The recipes are Westernised, which makes them both easy to cook and very tasty.

Sweet and sour pork.

Chicken and sweetcorn soup. It should have been chicken and spinach soup, but I cooked all of the spinach the day before and had to rely on stereotypes to fill in the blank.

Chicken with sesame seeds.

Braised fish.

The 50 Best Tips Ever for Triathlon

Saturday, June 9th, 2018 | Books

The 50 Best Tips EVER for Triathlon Swimming, Biking and Running is a book by Scott Welle. Welle is a motivational speaker and has completed half a dozen Ironman triathlon as well as ultramarathons and many other events.

I took some useful advice away from this book.

Welle argues that you should take it really easy up a hill and go as fast as you can down. Typically, you would think of climbing as hard and descending as some recovery time. But he points out that going 10% faster up a hill is not much faster, whereas 10% faster when descending makes a big difference.

He also argues that transition is not that important because it is so little of your time overall. It’s not that he suggests you ignore it: he does suggest some planning and rehearsal. But he argues you aren’t going to make big gains here because it’s such a small percentage of your race overall.

He shuns all the fancy bike accessories you can buy, except for some wheels and an aero helmet. The only essential you need after buying a good bike is a proper bike fit. And he shuns junk miles: everything should be really easy or really hard. Ideally, some of it should be on grass to be easier on the body.

Nutrition wise, he suggests eating 200-300 kcals per hour you will be racing. So, two hours before, take on 400-600 kcals of carbs, no protein, fibre or fat. During exercise, 200-400 kcals per hour depending on your body weight. And for recovery, use a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein.

22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

Friday, June 8th, 2018 | Books, Business & Marketing

22 Immutable Laws of Marketing is a book by Al Ries and Jack Trout. It aims to present 22 “laws” which it says will cause you to fail if you violate.

The first law is that of leadership: it’s better to be first than to be better. It does seem true that often the first company to do something is the leader many years later. You can typically substitute “leading” for “first” to find out how created the market. And it’s true that I can’t name the second person to fly across the Atlantic. Although I was able to name the second person to walk on the moon (Buzz Aldrin).

Shane Show argues the opposite in Smartcuts, where he claims research shows only 11% of first movers go on to maintain their status as the market leader. He says the big advantage of being second is that someone else has already figured out how to fix the big problems.

The book then talks about the category law: if you can’t be first, come up with a new category you can be first in. This is similar to what Peter Thiel says in Zero to One, where he urges people to carve out a tiny market to dominate rather than taking a small percentage of an existing one. For example, eBay started by specialising in collectables, and PayPal started by targetting eBay power sellers.

In terms of differentiation, you need to pick something that will put you on the opposite view of someone else. For example, you can’t say “quality” or “honesty” because everyone wants to say that and nobody will take the opposite view. You need to pick a segment or a view that other companies will disagree with.

The book also suggests you should stay specific. They repeatedly use the example of Donald Trump, having no idea he was going to go on to be president 25 years later. They discuss how he was initially successful but then went on to put his name on everything. And when you do everything you stand for nothing. Which is why he was already in $1.4 billion of debt.

Many of the books on marketing are timeless: they talk about the basics of human nature and these things don’t change. You would expect a book that talks about “immutable” laws would be the same. But it isn’t. It has dated. It was originally published in 1993 and shows its age.

Some of the predictions they make were incorrect, for example. The book claims that USA Today is entering a market too late. But, 25 years later, they’re doing well. They claim that because the market is already owned by other companies, Microsoft will never catch up with Lotus spreadsheets or WordPerfect. Of course, now most people have never heard of these programs and everyone uses Microsoft Office.

The idea that line extension is doomed seems somewhat flawed, too. Richard Branson’s Virgin group describes itself as a “brand based capital house” and gets into every market it can stick its name on. Clearly, they have been incredibly successful. It may not dominate the markets it enters, but with £20 billion in revenue it is hard to argue that what they do does not work.

There is definitely some good food for thought in there. But whether the game has changed, or whether the knowledge was just misapplied, some of the ideas just don’t fit the facts. So, we can at least conclude that the laws here are not immutable.

Psychology textbooks

Thursday, June 7th, 2018 | Books

I’ve spent the last year of my life reading a lot of psychology textbooks. In this post, I’m going to briefly discuss a few of them to help sort out the ones I liked from the ones I liked less.

An Introduction to Child Language Development

This is a short book by Susan Foster-Cohen. It has exercises and summaries thrown in but is otherwise just text. I didn’t find the summaries of each chapter very useful.

An Introduction to Developmental Psychology

Second edition edited by Alan Slater and Gavin Bremner. This is laid out in life sequences. However, the sequences are so broad that topics such as cognitive and language development are self-contained sub-chapters in themselves. It provides a good overview.

An Introduction to Stress & Health

This book by Hymie Anisman is a bit wall-to-wall text. However, it does provide a comprehensive discussion of the issues surrounding stress and health, including the concepts of appraisal and coping mechanisms.

Biological Psychology

Book by Marc Breedlove and Mark Rosenzweig. I did not get on with this one. It’s just walls of text.

Biological Psychology (12E)

This book by James Kalat is my favourite textbook on biological psychology. It is sometimes a little light on detail but covers all of the material and has lots of useful diagrams.

Cambridge Handbook of Child Language

This edited book by Edith Bavin has a large list of contributors. I only read the section on the usage-based theory of language by Michael Tomasello. It’s very wall-of-text but sufficiently concise that I managed to get through it while acquiring an understanding of Tomasello’s ideas.

Child Development

Useful because it goes through stages, but otherwise not that fun.

Handbook of Child Psychology

These books are huge and multilayered. The whole thing is edited by William Damon, but I only read volume two, edited by Deanna Kuhn and Robert Siegler. Specifically, I read the chapter grammar by Michael Maratsos. It’s heavy going, and a lot of text, but broken down into reasonable sections. It’s only worth reading if you really want to get into the detail.

This is an edited book by William Damon

Introduction to Biopsychology

This book by Pinel & Barness was the standard textbook used in our course. For good reason: it is well laid out and covers the main topics effectively.

Language Development: The Essential Readings

Edited book by Michael Tomasello and Elizabeth Bates. It’s a collection of papers compiled together. Most are laid out with roughly the same headings you would expect in a paper (method, results, development), but not always and the headings could be more clear. That apart, the papers are interesting and relevant. There is some author bias, though.

Lifespan Development

Sixth edition by Denise Boyd and Helen Bee. This book wasn’t ideal for our course because it is laid out in life stages, whereas we focused on topic areas. However, different topic areas were mostly in one chunk, such as cognitive development, so, in the end, it provided a concise overview. It’s quite well laid out for a textbook with good summaries and highlighted boxes.

Making Sense of Data and Statistics in Psychology

I think this was the first book I checked out of the library. It is by Brian Greer and Gerry Mulhern and appealed to me because it was relatively concise. However, it attempts to avoid teaching you the concepts straight up and instead uses lots of dialogues and round-about ways in the hope this will be more engaging. I couldn’t really get on board with it.

The Process of Research in Psychology

Nice introduction to research methods by Dawn McBride. I was able to read it all. It certainly doesn’t have the detail of books like Coolican’s, but it does give you a manageable amount.

Research Methods and Statistics in Psychology

Very good book by Hugh Coolican on conducting research, methodology, statistics and writing up. It’s reasonably light on the maths and instructions on using SPSS, but points you in the right direction. There are sample write-ups to follow, too.

Stress, Appraisal, and Coping

The original work by Lazarus & Folkman. It’s quite accessible for a classic piece of literature.

Stress, Cognition and Health

This book by Tony Cassidy provides a short and concise introduction to some of the theories behind stress and their impact on health. If you’re not too picky you can read through it in an hour or two and the topics are well organised.

Flat n Fast 100

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018 | Sport

Last week, I completed the Flat n Fast sportive in Thorne, South Yorkshire. As you may guess from the name, it is about completely a century in either kilometres or miles. I went for the slightly easier route, which totalled to 106km.

It was the farthest ride I’ve ever done. That said, it really is flat. There were less than 250 metres of climbing over the entire distance. Compare that to the more than 1,300 metres in my 90km Tour de Yorkshire ride. So, by comparison, this one should have been slightly easier.

I felt good for most of it, although the constant rain did gradually sock my feet. By the last 10-15km I was starting to feel the fatigue and that is the point we ran into a headwind. Luckily, I was riding with Bogdan so we could take it in turns to sit on the front.

The event organisation was so-so. It was well organised in terms they had a venue, signposts and marshalls. But the route was a bit rubbish. There were lots of industrial estates and busy roads. Maybe it is difficult to avoid them if you want flat ground but it doesn’t match up to the quiet roads and country views of previous events. There was one feed stop and one “tea, coffee and biscuits” stop. There was a big queue to get started, but that seems to be the case at all sportives.

Plus, two local residents had a go at me for being there. Apparently, they don’t like the event. “You can shove that bike race up your arse; waking us up at this time in the morning” one woman yelled. Because what human being is up at 8am on a Saturday morning?

Overall, I enjoyed the event. Sportive HQ make their events pretty affordable.